This site is part of an affiliate sales network and receives compensation for sending traffic to partner sites, such as CardRatings.com. This compensation may impact how and where links appear on this site. This site does not include all financial companies or all available financial offers. What is written in the article is the editor's opinion.
It’s nearly mid-November, how’d that happen?
I’m gearing up for Black Friday/Cyber Monday, as I’m sure many of you are, too.
Here are my top picks for cards to use for gift shopping and travel this holiday season.
In This Post
Holiday 2016 best credit cards
1. Chase Freedom
Hands-down my fave. Earn an easy 5X Chase Ultimate Rewards points, on up to $1,500 in combined spending at:
- Department stores (Macy’s, Kohl’s, Sears, Nordstrom – complete list here)
- Wholesale clubs (BJ’s, Costco, Sam’s Club)
Through December 31st, 2016.
I’ll likely spend a lot at Kohl’s, cuz that’s just how I roll. And I’ll definitely use this card at Costco, too.
Be sure to activate the bonus. This is an easy way to rack up 7,500 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per quarter ($1,500 x 5).
I always get 2 cents of value from each of my Chase points (and usually much more), so I peg this as an easy $150 back toward travel.
Essentially, I make sure Chase Freedom is a 10% cashback card when I shop in the 5X quarterly bonus categories. And so should you, if you have one of the other cards listed above.
And if not, 5% back is better than nothing AKA using a debit a card. Chase Freedom is also a great “intro” card if you’re new – but I’d compare it to the Freedom Unlimited, especially if you don’t like the 5x categories.
But for holiday shopping – this is #1.
Note you can NOT get approved from this card if you opened more than 5 cards from ANY bank in the past 24 months. Sigh.
Pro tip: If you shop online, always start through a shopping portal. I check Cashback Monitor constantly. And saw Giving Assistant has some good payouts for department stores (like 5% cashback at Kohl’s). Get $5 free if you sign up using my link (and I’ll get $5 too). TopCashback is another good one!
2. Discover It
- Link: Discover It with $50 bonus after first purchase
- Link: Yes! Just Got My $1,100+ Discover It Cashback Match (The Dublin)!
- Link: Amazon
Dear light of heaven, I love this card. I got $2,200+ back last year from Discover It, gratis.
Through December 31st, 2016, you can earn 5% cashback on up to $1,500 in combined spending at:
- Department stores (like Chase Freedom)
- Sam’s Club
Just remember to activate the bonus before you start shopping.
This is an excellent complement to the Chase Freedom for when you max out the department stores category. Or instead of Chase Freedom thanks to the Amazon category.
You could even purchase $1,500 in Amazon gift cards to use any time (guilty as charged). You’d earn 5% cashback for the current billing cycle ($75). And if you’re a new cardmember, another $75 after the 12th billing cycle during an event I’ve lovingly named “The Dublin.”
For a total of $150, or 10% cashback. Not bad for a card with no annual fee!
And now, Discover tells you exactly when your next Dublin will be. So I’m waiting patiently for October 27th, 2017. And am on track for another $1,000+ haul!
I’m on my 2nd Discover It card because you can have 2 max. But have to wait a year after the 1st one to open a 2nd.
This card is another excellent choice for holiday shopping.
3. Chase Sapphire Reserve
- Link: Apply for Points Rewards Cards
- Link: Honest Review: Chase Sapphire Reserve 100,000 Point Offer
I product changed to the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Because you can’t get approved if you’ve had more than 5 open cards in the previous 24 months. Which… I will never not have.
But I recommend this card for its:
- Huge 100,000 point sign-up bonus after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
- $300 annual travel credit which you can use for travel in 2016 AND AGAIN in 2017
- 3X bonus categories for travel and dining
This one isn’t so much for shopping. But for easing the sting of higher fares during the holidays. You can literally straight-up buy a plane ticket and get $300 back.
And because 2016 is winding down, the credit will reset in January 2017. The annual fee is $450, but you can recoup $600 of it very quickly.
If you plan to shop a lot, you can more easily meet the minimum spending. And then you’ll have a crap ton of points to use for travel.
Basically, turn holiday shopping into “meeting minimum spend” time.
The 3X you’ll earn on travel and dining is nice, too. I am in love with this card, even though I didn’t get a sign-up bonus *grumble grumble*
4. Citi Prestige
- Link: Apply for Hotel Rewards Cards
- Link: Honest Review: Citi Prestige 40,000 Point Offer
- Link: Citi Prestige by the Numbers
Yes, Citi has made massive changes to this card. But the good news is they don’t kick in until July 23, 2017. So you have a good 9 months to get your money’s worth.
Aye verily, I’ve recouped nearly $3,000 during the first year I’ve had the card. That’s insane.
The card continues to be worth it for:
- $250 travel credit
- 4th night free on paid hotel stays
- Industry BEST trip delay and cancellation insurance
I book ALL my airfare with this card. Because trip delay kicks in after only 3 hours, which is industry best. Even Chase Sapphire Reserve makes you wait 6 hours. And most other cards make you wait 12!
Plus, you get $250 in travel credits, which reset after the close on your December statement. So it’s possible to recoup the $450 annual fee with $250 back in 2016 and $250 back in 2017. Again, easing the sting of higher holiday fares.
If you plan on spending any time in a hotel, you get the 4th night free on paid stays. It’s a perk I use like crazy!
It’s true this card is a little less shiny than it was when it was launched. But the fact is, the changes are still pretty far away. And you can do well to assuage holiday travel if you maximize the very generous benefits that remain.
If you get one of these cards in the next few days, it should arrive in time for Black Friday. But LBH, I’m in it for Cyber Monday. 😉
Thank you for using my links to get a new card. It really, really helps and is appreciated.
Any cards you’d add to the list? I’m all (digital) ears!
BEST Current Credit Card Deals
- Chase Ink Business Preferred - Earn 80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points! and 3X bonus points for travel, internet, and all Plastiq payments! Compare it here.
- Chase Sapphire Preferred - Earn 50,000 Chase points with the BEST card for beginners. Compare it here.
- Blue Business Plus Amex - 10,000 Amex Membership Rewards points! Learn more here. - The BEST card for 2X on everyday spending.